It’s like the story of a band forming, three artists coming together for a shared endeavour. Simon Hiscock, Angela Lucas and Peter Massingham have each lived or worked on the Pullen’s Estate for many years.
“As long-term workshop tenants we were aware of the many creative people living and working on the Pullen’s Estate. We wanted to provide a platform for showcasing the work made here, both by artists and by people who would otherwise struggle to have their work seen in a public domain.”
The Yards’ first opening in 1990 was originally part of the Whitechapel Open, indeed it was the most southerly outpost of it, the first flyer featuring mostly painters, and with the imprimatur of the mighty Whitechapel itself.
The Whitechapel Open dates all the way back to 1932, when it was launched as an exhibition called The East End Academy at the Whitechapel, to feature “all artists living or working east of the famous Aldgate Pump”. This evolved to include possible visits to artists’ studios, and by the 1970s had become the Whitechapel Open.
The link to the Whitechapel Open was broken by the European Exchange Rate Mechanism recession of 1991-2, and Southwark Council’s inexplicable hiking of rents, which caused many artists in the Yards to shut up shop. When it began again, the Open Studios was confined to the Yards, yet usually with an eclectic pop-up exhibition by Simon, Angela and Peter in whatever studio space they could finagle.
“Our aims, as curators, are to promote the visual arts as a vital and integral part of self expression and self realisation, creating the opportunity of engagement with others which contributes to an evolving and civilized community, and that community contributes to a wider society.
“We share a belief that the ‘art establishment’ is somewhat bogus – a stultifying hierarchy which sets trends and fashions that restrict genuine creative expression.
“To celebrate the genuinely diverse work created within our small community, our approach has always been inclusive. As curators, we don’t apply a thematic selection process and provided we have sufficient room, we accept any submission without imposing an artistic or political ideology. And so, you could expect to see photographs by a fireman (who has never previously shown his work) alongside the highly collectible paintings from the internationally renowned artist Frank Bowling RA OBE.
“The mix of work from enthusiast to professional generates an extremely positive response from both the immediate community and wider public. People are able to see how their creative ideas can contribute to an inclusive community identity – one that is creative, enlightening and educational.”